Parchment Love

I used to have a love-hate relationship with parchment paper. I love that it keeps all kinds of things (bagels, hamburger rolls, grissini, cinnamon rolls…) from adhering to their pans. In fact, parchment is indispensable if you bake in or on metal pans. But I hate that the rolls of paper parchment are difficult to tear off cleanly, need to be cut with scissors every time to fit the pan, and can’t be reused more than two or three times, if at all.

Since I discovered reusable parchment sheets from Regency Wraps, there’s a whole lot more love going on in my kitchen.

  • The sheets can be reused hundreds of times, according to the manufacturer. I’ve had mine for a few months and they show no signs of wearing out.
  • They’re easy to clean with a damp cloth, and a little soap if they’re sticky or greasy.
  • They are easy to cut to the exact dimensions of your pans. The uncut size is 13 x 17 inches, large enough for a sheet pan, two 8-inch cake pans, or two 9 x 13-inch pans (which are usually a little smaller than that at the bottom). It’s worth having one for each pan you use regularly.
  • Once they’re cut to size, they can be stored right in their pans.
  • They can be used in oven temperatures up to 500F. Paper burns at 450.
  • They are more “nonstick” than paper parchment. I used to need copious amounts of semolina to keep bagels from sticking to the paper. With these sheets I don’t need any.


And here’s even more for you to love: Forget flowers and chocolate — I would love to send some love to your kitchen in time for Valentine’s Day,  in the form of two reusable parchment sheets, courtesy of Regency Wraps.

Continue reading for giveaway details…

Lazy Baking — Oat Bran Sourdough Muffins

It’s Tuesday night and I can’t make bagels. I want to make bagels, I have all the ingredients for bagels, and I love making bagels. But after putting in a full day of work, my energy is sapped and I can’t face rolling 18 bagels and then staying up for another three or four hours waiting to put them into the fridge overnight. What I need is to mix, bake, and go to bed. (Well, OK, I might sneak an episode of Breaking Bad in there somewhere.)

Mix, bake, sleep… sounds like muffins to me. Sourdough, of course. And using some of that big bag of oat bran that stares me in the face every time I look at the pantry shelf seems like a good idea, too. Sourdough oat bran muffins are not in my repertoire, but what the hell, I’ll just try something. At worst, I’ll have lost 30 minutes and 63 cents’ worth of oat bran, and I can go to bed saying I tried.

Believe me when I say a new recipe almost never works for me on the first attempt, but these are actually pretty good! They have the texture I appreciate in a muffin — coarse and chewy and nothing like a cupcake. The 15-muffin batch size is a bit unconventional, but I can live with that. And they’re rather plain looking, aren’t they?

But they really do taste very good, although I can imagine all sorts of ways they could be spruced up with the addition of nuts, fruits, spices, gumball machine rings, etc. What are your ideas? Share them in the comments, or better yet, bake up your own take on these very easy muffins and send me a photo and a link to your recipe (must include sourdough starter and oat bran!). If I have any takers, I’ll post them in a roundup in a couple of weeks.

[Read more...]

Cuban Bread

We are the Bread Baking Babes, and we love to bake bread. Sometimes we do other things too, which is why Ilva’s choice for us this month is a welcome addition to our repertoire. This Cuban Bread, from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, calls for a good amount of yeast and rolls the final proof into the baking step by starting the bake in a cold oven. This means we can have a delicious boule with a unique bronze-colored crust and a soft, close, sweet crumb in two hours from start to finish, leaving us time for various other things like working, spending time with our families, exercising, and hobbies. (My latest hobby is sweeping tiny crunchy ball bearings from every corner of the kitchen. If that’s not your thing, do not coat your bread with errant amaranth seeds, as I did. Stick to sesame.)

[Read more...]

Stollen Buddies

We Bread Baking Babes love the friends who bake with us each month. Yay for the Buddies who made room in their busy December schedules to bake these beautiful Stollen!

  • Gilad (Gilad Ayalon Vegan) made a vegan version by using apple puree and coconut oil instead of eggs and butter.
  • Judy (Judy’s Gross Eats) was disappointed with the recipe, but she did say it tasted great, and it looks wonderful to me!

Pandoro and Friends

2012, be warned: 2011 is a tough act to follow. The beautiful and exciting things that came my way in 2011 are too numerous to count, but Number Two on the list has to be the trip Jay and I took to Morocco and Venice in November (with Number One being our wedding a month later). And while the highlights of that trip are also too numerous to count, our day in Verona is on that list for sure.

The charming city of Verona is an easy 80-minute train ride from (equally charming) Venice, and we thought it would make a lovely day trip. Jay was thinking history, culture, architecture, photography. I — obviously! — was thinking Pandoro pans. I have been coveting genuine Italian pans for this star-shaped golden holiday bread forever, and they just can’t be found in the US. But Pandoro originated in Verona, so I was sure I could find some there.

And find them I did, but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was how I found them. I remembered that the lovely and talented Cinzia also hails from Verona, and when I emailed her to ask about where I might buy the pans, she not only came through with the name of a shop (Plurimix), but she came into the city to meet us! Over lunch and a slice of Nadalin (another Veronese holiday bread, reportedly the forerunner of Pandoro), I found Cinzia to be every bit as warm and delightful as her blog.

And that, my dear friends, is the real pleasure I derive from writing this blog: connecting with wonderful people all over the globe, whether face-to-face or through virtual pathways.  I can’t think of a nicer way to observe BreadBakingDay — the monthly event that celebrates baking and breaking bread together — than with Pandoro dedicated to Cinzia (who happens to be hosting BBD this month, too!), Zorra (creator of BBD), and all of my bread-baking friends everywhere.

[Read more...]


Today is December 16, 2011. Is this an important date because …

A) It’s the posting (and my hosting) day for the Bread Baking Babes

B) I get married today

C) Both of the above, and by the time you read this I will have pulled the Stollen from the oven, dusted the flour off my dress, and made my way to City Hall to exchange vows with my beautiful, brilliant, sweet, funny, gentle, loving…

Ahem. Back to the Stollen. A perfect choice for this month, because it practically makes itself, leaving us Babes to occupy our minds with… whatever other things we may wish to occupy them with.

Stollen is one of my favorite holiday breads, and quite easy to make. It is a traditional bread from Dresden, Germany, and the shape is said to represent the swaddled child in the manger. You kind of have to use your imagination to see this.

Mixing the dough is simple if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, although it takes some time. Just throw the ingredients in the mixer, turn it on, and go buy a wedding dress or something.The dough will be ready when you get back.

[Read more...]